Friday, October 12, 2012

In my forty years (1964-2004) teaching art history at Carleton College I took thousands of slides of architecture for use in my classes.   At the time I never thought they would have a life beyond their physical existence as filmstrips in a plastic mount.  Then the Society of Architectural Historians established SAHARA, a digital image archive.  I contributed 4869 images.  Since then, it has been gratifying when other scholars have mentioned seeing or using some of those images.  One episode stands out.

SAHARA forwarded to me a request from an American (I believe) scholar in Beijing asking for permission to reproduce in a Chinese-language journal a slide I had taken of a detail of the Allen Art Museum in Oberlin, Ohio.  Apparently, I had taken the slide at just the right angle to support her argument (for architectural historians, it is Robert Venturi's "ironic ionic" column).  It turned out that the SAHARA image was not the right size but the Carleton slide curator, Heidi Eyestone, was able to adjust from the original slide.

Perhaps this sort of thing is an everyday occurrence to most scholars now.  But to this professor, still living in an analog world, it was just amazing that an image taken in Ohio by a professor from Minnesota could, 30 years later, come to the attention of a scholar in China through accessing a digital archive, and that image, corrected in Minnesota, could be transmitted to Beijing and eventually end up in a Chinese-language journal published in China.   LS